I’m on my way to Kansas again, this time for a four-week writer’s retreat. Well, to be precise, I’m writing this post from a motel room in Bloomington, Illinois, which was about halfway between Hamilton and Lawrence. I’ll be auditing one workshop in the first two weeks, and participating in an alumni novelist workshop in the last two weeks, but compared with other workshop programs, I’m going to need to push myself to get writing done. Read the rest of this entry »
Just heard back from Kij Johnson about her CSSF workshop – once again, I didn’t make it in. I’m disappointed, but not too badly. There’s lots of other stuff going on in my writing life, and ‘Kitchen Scale’ is no longer looking so shiny somehow.
I’ve sent a new sample story over to Chris McKitterick, to throw my hat into the ring for his CSSF workshop; that’s the two week short story critiquing program I attended in the summer of 2011 and 2012. I’ve been working on my enrollment form for TNEO 2014, where I think I’ll go in the novel group and workshop “Won’t Somebody Think of the Children.”
I’ve also committed to finishing “The Gnomes are Missing” for Camp Nano in April! This was the novel project that I pitched to Kij for the workshop last summer, and I’m really excited about getting back to it.
Let’s see, what else? I got a cool idea while walking to the bus stop this afternoon; guidance counselors. Like really freaky good ones who listen to anything you can come up with about what sort of life you want and come up with the perfect plan for what you should do to get that kind of life. Not a perfect plan perhaps, but much better than anything you could do for yourself.
Except no plan can ever prepare you for the choices you’ll have to make, or for the way life changes your priorities. And the guidance counselors are free until you’re 18 or 19–after that, it gets more expensive. (And not necessarily in terms of money.) 🙂 It’s just a novum so far, not sure what the characters or the plot will be, but I think it could be a really fun one.
Late last night, I got an email from the Clarion West writer’s workshop. They thanked me for applying, and then “We are sorry to let you know that you have not been selected for our 2013 workshop.” I’m sorry too.
But I’m not sorry that I took the time (and the money) to apply for Clarion UCSD and Clarion West. I knew that they were both long shots; there were probably hundreds, if not at least a thousand writers applying to both workshop, and I don’t think either take on twenty students every summer. But going to either would be such an amazing experience that it was worth the try. (Especially with Neil Gaiman at Clarion West this year!) After all, if I was ready to get picked, but didn’t apply, I’d never have even known that I was good enough.
I’m still hopeful for the two workshops that I haven’t heard back from yet, especially Odyssey, since I got wait-listed back in 2011, and I know that I’ve improved a lot since then. But there’s no way to be sure about that but waiting.
If those options don’t work out, I’ve been reconsidering trying to go back to Kansas for the two-week short fiction critique circle workshop that I’ve attended the past two summers. I was thinking that I didn’t want to do that again for the third year straight, but now I’m not sure why not. I can certainly learn more from that workshop, and I’ll get to meet some interesting new people.
Of course, if I wait until I hear back from Odyssey before getting in touch with Chris M at Kansas, I might find out that there’s no room for any more critiquers. 😉
Well, after putting it off, for a while, I finally checked out this link that Elizabeth Twist left me over at Stringing Words for my five-page synopsis on “The Gnomes are Missing.” And there’s really great stuff, so much really great stuff, (warning, it’s a link to the ‘5-page synopsis’ category on Anne Mini’s blog, and it looks like she’s posted about synopses of all lengths a LOT!)
So I’m kinduv at that point where I know most of what I thought about writing a five-page synopsis before today is wrong, and I’ve got some notion of what I should actually be doing, but not enough to feel actually comfortable giving it the old college try. Sigh.
Probably I just need to sleep on it and get back to this at the Power Center tomorrow – hopefully Elizabeth will be coming too and I can pick her brain about what she got from reading the Anne Mini stuff. (Unless she’s decided the weather is good enough to go frolicking with her dog instead. 😉 )
One thing that might be good is that I think I was actually on the right track when I went ‘off-script’ Tuesday evening and just talked to the Hamilton Writer’s Circle about what excited me about the Missing Gnomes story, instead of reading the plot outline point by point. If I can get the heart of that impromptu speech down into Roughdraft, and then expand some of the scene that excite me the most even more, then I think I’ll be well on my way.
I’m not sure if this is necessary, but I do think it’s worth doing. I’m sure Kij Johnson knows how to write a kick-ass 5-page synopsis. She may not expect everybody applying to her workshop to know that yet, but I suspect those who do will earn a point in her books. Now that I know more about the target I’m aiming for, I’m one step closer.
Well, I finally got around to reading through some of the critiques I got back in December for the first sample chapter of “The Gnomes are Missing.” There were some very nice things said in all those emails I got from critterfolk, and a few problems raised that I have to agree with.
I took a little while to think about it, and decided that I needed to turn the project around at this point. When I started with ‘Gnomes’ in late November, I really hadn’t planned it at all beyond ‘Hey, this will be a great thing to write now that I’m done with “Snow Job,” and maybe I can send it to CSSF novels.’ I took maybe 15 minutes to organize a few character thoughts at a local write-in and then dived into the first scene.
So, now, I’m going back to the drawing board. Based on what I’ve discovered about the Gnomes and their friends in Nanowrimo, and what people have said via critters and Six Sentence Sunday, I’ve started a new list of characters, changing around some of the personalities and relationships I began with in Discovery. Next I’m planning to do the five-page plot synopsis, (or as many pages as I can wring out of myself,) and then go back to rewrite the sample chapters with a clearer idea of where I want the story to go.
It’s going to be hard to put some elements of my trial run aside, but I’m also excited!
How’d that happen? I feel like it was only yesterday that I showed up here at Krehbiel Scholarship Hall, dragging my suitcases behind me. It can’t have been a week and a half already!
I’ve learned a lot and had a blast, met some great new people, learned a lot about my craft and my stories, and I’ve started planning for the trip back to Canada – which is going to be a little bit crazy, since I need to get picked up by the airport shuttle at (gulp) 4:30 am on Friday.
And I’m both excited and daunted by the fact that I’ll be charging directly into the Polaris convention experience, instead of going home, once I return to Canada! 😉
Certainly getting my money’s worth on vacation days, at least.
How’s your summer going?
When you’re critiquing, sometimes you’ll miss the point of a story or book. That happened to me a bit in today’s workshop session.
For one, I had some company. Nearly everybody who critiqued one story was saying that they weren’t sure what the intent of the plot was or putting forward their own theories – until our workshop leader took his turn, and more or less nailed it. (I guess that’s why he’s the guy in charge.)
And in another story, I was the only one who missed a more minor point – the gender of the main character – everybody else had identified the narrator as ‘her’, and I’d written ‘he’ in my write-up. Oh well.
I’m having a great time and learning lots. Mistakes are part of that learning process, right?
Workshop update – today’s session went great. (So did yesterday’s, which I didn’t mention in yesterday’s post, since that was mostly written in the morning.) I got lots of great feedback and suggestions for ‘The Storm Mirror,’ including that old favorite that I seem to still be having trouble with – torture your characters more. 😉 I’m excited about the revision.
We’ve been talking quite a bit so far about ‘killing your babies’, which wasn’t advice that I got that I noticed – if a favorite element isn’t working for the story, you have to take it out; and maybe try to use it later. That reminds me of this favorite exchange on Stringing Words between myself and Elizabeth Twist:
Elizabeth: …Ultimately, this is helping me to let go of my older projects by allowing the new project to digest the juiciest bits.
Me: [That] prompted a very weird mental image in my head – something like you as a mother in a graveyard, saying goodbye to your ‘babies’ but smiling because a bizarre, chimera-like creature (your new book) is picking at the dead bodies. Fun.
Elizabeth: Thanks, Chris–that’s an accurate image of my mental state right now. Except I’m wearing a tiara and cheering on my chimera. Whee!
So, that’s my little piece of writing advice to everybody who reads me today – feed your chimera!